Thank you so very much Typhany Choinard for sharing this beautiful story with us. Typhanny wrote this story when her Aunt passed away in 2008 as a way to help herself and her young daughters go through their grieving.
It had been ten days since Ayasha had seen Ake:Hak. She missed her terribly and wondered why she wasn’t at the feast today. Everyone from the longhouse had been there and there was lots of food, stories and drumming. Ayasha, sensed strangeness in the air as Grandfather and the others seemed sad and she wished Ake:Hak was there to play with her. Where are you? Where did you go? Ayasha searched everywhere for Ake:Hak. She had looked for her for days and was hoping she would join them in the longhouse for the end of the feast.
It was just over a week ago when everyone was gathered around the fire in the longhouse that she lost sight of her. Ake:Hak was snuggled close to the fire sitting cross legged on the ground. She saw the sun in every fire and celebrated its splendor. She taught Ayasha about the fires great gifts and how important fire is to all people. She showed her how to smudge and cleanse in its sweet smoke and how to send messages and prayers to ancestors. She taught her to honour and respect it.
Ayasha had just nodded off to sleep as grandfather was telling the story of Oshwedogo the Guardian of the west. Oshwedogo was placed in the west by the Great Spirit at the beginning of days to help humans just like the Seneca people had been made the people of the great hill and keepers of the western door. Ayasha was captivated by the story. She loved listening to Grandfather’s stories. It was her favourite time of the day but the monotonous sound of the drums and the warmth of the longhouse had quickly lulled her into a deep slumber.
Ayasha saw Ake:Hak playing with the fire. She could feel its warmth and listened to it crackle and snap. She watched the flames change shape. She watched them dance, flash and flicker. Ake:Hak danced with the fire and it invited her into its revelry. Ayasha wanted to follow but she knew how scalding the flames would be. She stayed away having been burned once before helping Grandmother warm three sisters’ soup for a solstice feast. Ayasha stood by the fire looking in, trying to find Ake:Hak, trying to see her dance and play in the flickering light but she could not find her. She felt her presence near but could not see her. She walked around the fire wondering if Ake:Hak was on the other side. On the ground she found a peculiar box. The box was warm from the heat and ornately decorated with a faceless figure. Ayasha picked it up and tried to open it. She could not open it and wondered what was inside. It was so beautiful she felt obliged to keep it and tucked it into her bag. It was then that she decided she must search for Ake:Hak.
Ayasha looked everywhere for Ake:Hak. She had searched the fires inside the longhouse but did not see her anywhere. She went to the riverbank and watched, waited and searched. She saw dragon flies hover across the surface of the water darting in and out of the cattails, she saw a heron perched in a sea of lily pads and saw the odd splash of a fish eluding the fishermen’s bait. She watched, waited and searched until the sun began to set. Ayasha noticed the western sky was ablaze in orange, red and pink. The colours danced across the horizon of the setting sun and Ayasha was captivated by its brilliance. It seemed to energize her and she remembered one place that she hadn’t searched.
Ayasha made her way into the forest to find the large white pine tree. She thought that she might find Ake:Hak there. It was one of her favourite places. The tree was so tall that it seemed to Ayasha it must reach the heavens. She loved to sit under it and play. She loved to help Grandmother collect medicine from the tree. They made tea from the needles and bark to help others get better when they were ill. Grandfather told her that this tree was very special as it signaled a great peace and represented the laws of their people. It grew from weapons of war and evil times but Ayasha did not feel at peace. She was overcome with great sadness when she reached the great tree.
As the sun gave way to Grandmother Moon Ayasha became frightened. She had never been out alone in the dark and wasn’t sure of her way back home. She was paralyzed with fear and burrowed her way under the boughs of the great white pine. “You must go, go, go,” said a voice. “Who’s there?” said Ayasha. “Can’t stay here, no, no, no,” it replied. Ayasha caught a glimpse of a small black rabbit twitching about. She asked the rabbit if he had seen Ake:Hak and if he knew the way back to the longhouse of the people of the great hill. The rabbit sniffed, twitched and darted into its burrow. Ayasha sighed and wished she had a safe burrow to hide in.
That evening Grandmother Moon was very bright. She seemed to cast a moonbeam halfway up the great white pine. Ayasha decided to climb up to the light. The boughs of the great white pine supported her making her climb easy and swift. When she reached the spotlight of Grandmother Moon she found a small hole in the tree. It was small and round and Ayasha wished she was small enough to climb inside. She began to cry “Oh Ake:Hak where have you gone?” “Why won’t you come back?” “If you were here you’d know just what to do.” As the tears streamed down her face Ayasha felt very small and alone. She peered into the cozy hole in the tree. Inside it she could see the tidy roost of a chickadee. “Who’s there,” said Chickadee. “Oh excuse me,” said Ayasha. “I didn’t mean to disturb you but I am alone and scared.” “I have lost my way.” “Well come in, in, in,” said the Chickadee “A child should not be roaming alone at this hour.” To Ayasha’s surprise she was able to climb into the small hole. The roost was small, cozy and very orderly and when Ayasha was settled Chickadee asked her why she was roaming the woods alone. She told Chickadee about her search for Ake:Hak. She told him how much she missed her and about how she had missed most of the feast. She told Chickadee how she had watched, waited and searched for her at the fires in the longhouse, the shores of the riverbank and now the boughs of the great white pine. Ayasha had run out of places to look and did not understand how Ake:Hak could just leave her. Ayasha hadn’t realized until now how angry she was at her and how grieved her heart was. Chickadee listened intently to Ayasha’s plight. “Do not be angry,” said the Chickadee. “Trust she is where the Creator has chosen her to be.” “There is one place you have not looked.” Chickadee told Ayasha about the sky world. He told her about the Big Dipper and his bear hunt and suggested that she visit Eagle Who Sees Far. “The sky may hold the truth that you are seeking,” said Chickadee. “In the morning light you may travel to the top of the great white pine to see Eagle Who Sees Far.” “He may help you on your journey.” Then Chickadee made Ayasha a bed of feathers and sang her to sleep.
When they woke in the morning Chickadee gave Ayasha directions to the top of the great white pine and called upon his friends to help her, his whole flock helped. The birds lifted her up and caught her when she slipped but just before she made it to the top they had to leave and she was left to make the final journey alone.
When Ayasha had reached the top of the tree Eagle Who Sees Far was perched in his nest. He had been expecting her but she did not know it. Perched high in the tree he could see all that had transpired. His body was black as night and his head as white as snow. His eyes were stern and his curved yellow beak was very big. Ayasha remembered all of the stories Grandfather had told her about eagles. Eagles carry messages to the ancestors and have very powerful medicine. She was quite frightened of the eagle and wanted to make sure she was very respectful. “She:ko,” said Ayasha as she pulled a small package of tobacco that was pleasantly wrapped out of her bag. She offered it to the eagle to show her thanks and respect for the help she was about to ask for. “Niyawë,” said Eagle Who Sees Far “I have been expecting you.” I have watched you search the fires of the longhouse, the shores of the river and the boughs of the great white pine tree. “What are you searching for?” Ayasha told Eagle That Sees Far all about her search for Ake:Hak and again she began to weep because she missed her so.
Eagle Who Sees Far’s eyes softened as his heart was touched by the little girl’s quest. “There is someone who might help you,” said Eagle Who Sees Far. He told her about Ga-do-waas. “Ga-do-waas keeps watch over the four corners of Turtle Island and is the gatekeeper to the Soul House.” “He sees all of what happens on Turtle Island.” “The stars on his belt light the way for those who are on their journey to the Soul House and when they arrive he places their star high in the night sky.” “I will take you there if you wish.”
Ayasha was pleased that Eagle Who Sees Far was obliging. She climbed onto his back and they soared through the air. His wings were magnificent and mighty and they travelled high up into the luminous clouds. Grandmother Moon was not awake over Turtle Island and they had to travel far to find the night sky. When they arrived Ga-Do-Waas welcomed them. He told them that he had been expecting Ake:Hak and felt that she was very close but she had not yet arrived. Ayasha was very sad that they did not find her. “When Ake:Hak arrives from her journey through the Milky Way a brilliant star will be placed in the night sky,” said Ga-Do-Waas. “The star will glow orange and will burn brilliantly bright.” Ga-Do-Waas told them that when she arrived he would place her star near Jupiter. It would glow orange for two days before turning white. Eagle Who Sees Far and Ayasha thanked Ga-Do-Waas and flew swiftly into the night sky. They went through the milky way, around the big dipper and it seemed as though time had stood still when they flew swiftly past the white pine tree to the longhouse of the people of the great hill.
Ayasha was surprised when she woke up around the fire. The feast was almost over. She must have fallen asleep. She and Grandfather decided to go for a walk to the river before going to bed. Ayasha loved the river and was standing on a large rock overlooking the rippling water. The sun was setting in the west and the warm southern winds were blowing gently. She could feel Ake:Hak standing beside them even though she wasn’t there. Ayasha remembered the box she had found and wanted to show Grandfather. She took it out of her bag and was surprised to see a bright orange star next to the faceless figure. She opened the box, the dust that was in it was carried away by the southern wind. The dust sparkled and danced through the sky. Grandfather and Ayasha watched and danced late into the night. There was a contagious feeling of happiness in the air. The dust continued swirling and dancing until it reached the Milky Way. Grandfather and Ayasha laughed and told stories remembering Ake:Hak. It seemed to Ayasha that she would not see Ake:Hak again unless in a dream. She looked up into the darkness and saw the most beautiful orange star lighting up the night sky.